Armored Core V is what people have come to expect of mech-combat games: it's fun, pretty, and provides overall smooth gameplay; however it's nothing groundbreaking and is so impossibly confusing that only hardcore fans will truly enjoy it.
- Solid mech gameplay
- Every part of your mech is customizable
- Uninspired campaign and multiplayer
- None of the game makes sense
- I'm serious. None of it
Armored Core 5 Review:
You were a bright-eyed kid with a pocketful of change and one goal in mind: buy a used game from the store in the mall. You were too young to have a reasonable grasp of all the titles available—and the internet as it existed was no help—so you grabbed the game with the coolest cover. After taking it home you realized that while you understood more or less how to play the game you had no idea what the hell was going on.
Most people who played games in the nineties have a story like this. We were all duped into buying a bizarre game because of its badass box art. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Armored Core V is. It’s the game that plays fine, but is so obscure it has absolutely no appeal after a few hours.
An enigma wrapped in a mech
Like any standard mech game, you take control of an armored mech loaded to bear with guns and ammo. This is approximately where the game stops making sense. Controls are simply enough and fairly intuitive, and anyone even remotely familiar with shooters should pick it up easily. However, you’re more or less left on your own to figure them out. In fact, the control layout in the game manual is for one of the menus. Yes, a button layout for an in-game menu.
The main menu is a map with a number of missions smattered across it. You can choose either story missions or auxiliary missions (the purpose of which is still unclear to me). Even though there is a voice that tells you what to do, there is no place to check your objectives or build a strategy beyond following a path laid out in front of you. However, even this is often unclear as the path can abruptly stop, leaving you wondering where to go next. The best bet, I found, was simply to kill every enemy I could find until the mission ended. For a long time I couldn’t even figure out if my health was supposed to regenerate on its own.
Where my confusion really came into full bloom was with the in-mission garage. The garage is where you can go to reload ammo, switch out guns and recharge health. None of this was explained; I simply had to figure it out through trial and error, which was fairly brutal considering accessing the garage costs progressively more money every time. Most amusing to me was the first time I entered the garage. Excited about the prospect of changing my gun, I promptly outfitted my mech with the coolest weapons I could. After leaving the garage I charged into battle like the badass I thought I was, only to find that I had actually removed all of my guns but one.
It did not end well for me.
Such was my experience for most of the game—lack of explanation leads to disaster. While this merited a chuckle once or twice, when it became my entire experience I became frustrated and tired.
Venturing over to the multiplayer I won matches only when I was less confused than the opposing team, not because I was more talented. (I know this from chatting with many of these other players. I never have my chat set to public, but after a frustrating hour of trying to figure why I couldn’t play multiplayer, I found out this was the problem. Again, there was no explanation as to why I couldn’t access a vast portion of the game I just had to figure it out). Many of the players I spoke with were struggling with anything from the basic principles of the game to outfitting their mechs.
Like reading a jumbo-tron with a migraine
After playing the campaign for more than ten hours I will now explain my grasp of the story. There are mechs fighting battles across India and China for some reason. There is a resistance (I think)? One of the factions is an entity known as the City Police. I’m not sure if I’m on their side. And even though they are fighting across the world they refer to themselves as “City” Police. No one questions them for being out of their jurisdiction, wherever that may be. Also, a figure referred to as “father” was mentioned a few times.
Seriously, that’s it. That is all I managed to glean from playing the game for hours upon hours. To me it seems almost deliberately obtuse. This, coupled with some seriously lame campaign sorties—honestly, they can’t even call them missions, because that would make too much sense—makes the single player entirely forgettable, and frankly, a waste of time.
Too confusing to make fun of anymore
I honestly cannot recommend Armored Core 5 to anyone, even the series’s biggest fans. The game doesn’t make sweeping improvements or changes from any previous installments. All it brings to the table is a mech game with fairly solid gameplay; however, every facet of the game is so unintelligible that it quickly becomes uninteresting and unremarkable.
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Editor's Note: Armored Core 5 was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.